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Challenger hiring recap: Retailers added lowest number of jobs in Q4 since 2009

Nearly half of the surveyed retailers are hiring for new positions and replacing for turnover.
Retailers added 24% less jobs in December 2022 compared to the same month last year.

Retailers took a conservative approach to adding jobs in the fourth quarter of 2022 as the holidays approached even as the economy added a solid number of jobs to end the year.

Retailers added 98,000 jobs in December, the lowest December total since 2019 when 78,000 jobs were added and 24% lower than the 128,400 jobs added in December 2021, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“Employers had a lot of challenges entering the holiday season,” said Andrew Challenger, senior VP of Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “They needed to account for the possibility of inflation-related low spending, as well as whether they would be able to actually find the talent to fill positions.”

In the fourth quarter, retailers added 519,400, 26% lower than the 701,400 jobs added in the same period in 2021. It is the lowest number of jobs added since 495,800 were added in the fourth quarter of 2009.

“After years of attempts to recruit and retain workers, it is possible retailers had the necessary staff going into the 2022 holiday season,” said Challenger. “It’s also very possible retailers wanted to hire more, but couldn’t find the talent.”

The Challenger firm tracked fewer large-scale seasonal hiring announcements in 2022 than in 2021. In total, companies announced just 597,600 hiring plans for the holiday season, a 38% decrease from one year prior.

“The lower number of seasonal positions indicate companies are playing it safe entering 2023,” said Challenger.

The BLS data shows that 16,176,800 Americans are employed in retail, the highest total for the sector since 2018, when 16,197,000 were employed. (In December 2018, retailers added only 14,900 jobs.)

Transportation and warehousing added 128,142 jobs in December, down 20% from the 160,200 new positions added in the same month last year. For the holidays, the sector added 372,600 jobs, down 33% from the 552,300 added in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Unlike retail, however, total employment for transportation and warehousing is 6,861,000, according to non-seasonally adjusted data from the BLS, the highest total for the sector on record.

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